Millennium Post

Sisters in arms

While a product of Harrow, Cambridge and London's Inner Temple, Nehru was baptised with the grandstanding logic of Britain's bourgeois Left, adopting their ideas on many issues, from five-year economic plans to India's foreign policy – including a coldness towards Israel, supporting the Palestinians instead. His daughter, Indira Gandhi, also enjoyed lecturing the world while failing to meet her population's most basic needs. But, Narendra Modi is a very different character. He is neither the product of privilege nor of British education; but, the barefooted son of a chai-wallah who has clawed his way to the Prime Minister's office, with a clearer and far more authentic understanding of his people's needs than any Indian leader till date. For him, the national interest will always take precedence over any political fashion.

Narendra Modi's arrival in Israel marks not only an epochal moment in India-Israel relations, but also highlights the final rejection of the psychological Raj that has hampered Indian diplomacy for so long - since Independence in 1947. Some have remarked that this trip represents a cynical marriage of convenience between two nationalist anti-Muslim Prime Ministers, but any Israeli leader, not just Benjamin Netanyahu, would find a friend in Modi, who is attracted by Israel's intellectual and economic dynamism, and the contribution it can make to his country, rather than any shared bigotry. And those who think Modi's visit is, in part, to humiliate his domestic Muslims should remember that Muslims in India are not Arabs, nor do they emulate Arabs, as Pakistanis do. They are Indians, with roots as deep in Indian history as any Hindu, and are the products of the same multicultural tolerance that is India's native tradition.

Anti-Israeli sentiment has never been strong among them, as the many young Israelis who've travelled among India's 180 million Muslims can testify. That the world's second largest Islamic population is so at ease with Israel is something that should be far more widely known and advertised. Israel and India are compatible in so many ways. Both democracies are ancient civilisations that have endured a great deal and today stand in the world on their own terms, in full possession of the wisdom of their experiences. And, like the Jewish people, Indians are to be found all over the planet, making a success of themselves in every field of endeavor. The two populaces are exceptionally well-suited to the challenges and opportunities of globalisation, having a deeper tradition of productive co-existence than most others. Even the understanding of the dynamics of globalisation has brought the two countries closer together more than any other consideration. Just as Israel has kept itself intimately connected with its diaspora, Narendra Modi has reached out to India's thirty million-strong ex-pat community to enhance his country's engagement with the world. While being deeply rooted in their own traditions, both Indians and Israelis are extremely international in their outlook and sensibility.

Modi is committed to India responsibly taking its rightful place in an increasingly integrated world, and in Israel he sees a partner that is uniquely equipped to make that happen: a democracy that shares India's own deep cosmopolitanism and international mindset, that seeks to capitalise on the opportunities of a fast-changing world through enterprise and innovation. Israel has long complained that India treats it like a mistress, but when speaking alongside his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the cooperation now marks a 'marriage made in heaven'; washing away all doubts and apprehensions.
Now Modi, a pro-business politician keen on developing the Indian economy, is expected to sign agreements with Israel covering innovation, development, science and technology, and space. Modi's three-day visit is a landmark moment for the Jewish state, a country seeking the friendship of powerful allies and customers for its advanced military equipment. But the trip is a cause of genuine excitement and also a unique opportunity for members of the small Jewish Indian community in Israel to increase their visibility. Nonetheless, the political message of the trip is apparent – the ruling dispensation is no longer green about the gills in dealing with Israel as was the case in the past. Whether that nausea was due to possible impact that such a relationship would have on domestic politics or on the vast Indian Diaspora is a matter of perception.
India realises Israel is no longer an outsider with Jerusalem having a working relationship with conservative states such as Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. Such a proudly independent program is a thorough disclaimer of the Raj mindset, indeed!

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